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Without Offending Humans: A Critique of Animal Rights

Élisabeth de Fontenay
Translated by Will Bishop
Series: Posthumanities
Volume: 24
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Without Offending Humans
    Book Description:

    Élisabeth de Fontenay describes philosophy’s ongoing indifference to animal life—shading into savagery, underpinned by denial—and explains how attempts to exclude the animal from ethical systems have demeaned humanity. Without Offending Humans reveals a careful and emotionally sensitive thinker who explores the unfolding of humans’ assessments of their relationship to animals—and the consequences for how we define ourselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8294-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. 1 Their Secret Elect
    (pp. 1-18)

    “The philosopher, the one the animal does not look at” . . . When, for the first time, I heard Jacques Derrida speak at the Collège de philosophie, directed at the time by Jean Wahl, I reacted, all things being relative, as Malebranche did upon reading Descartes’sTreatise on Man:“His beating heart sometimes forced him to stop his reading,” writes Fontenelle. From that moment on, I did not take leave of this work nor of this man, even if it would often cause me distress to place myself in certain of his footsteps.

    But in a way, I missed...

  5. 2 The Improper
    (pp. 19-46)

    The philosopher who goes off in search of what is proper to man often stops short, too quickly satisfied with abstractions and entities—essence, nature, consciousness. Scientists from any discipline are all the more willing to make fun of his naïveté because his discourse makes claims to rigor. Either that or the philosopher simply abdicates in the face of scientific advances and reproduces in his own way the reductionist, even eliminationist naturalism that positivist knowledge makes available to him. In which case he can no longer even be a philosopher, for he is only vulgarizing by acquiescing to fatalistic determinism....

  6. 3 Between Possessions and Persons
    (pp. 47-71)

    Lévi-Strauss invites us to criticize the notion of the rights of man, which he affirms are too strongly anchored in a philosophy of subjectivity. He says we should replace it with the principle of a system of the rights of man as a living being, a right of the human species among other species: this is “wild” and pessimist thinking. Its austere analysis makes it irredeemable for the movements of “deep ecology.”¹ It would certainly be a misunderstanding and a caricature of this position from an ethnographer to use it to claim, for example, an extension of the rights of...

  7. 4 Rhetorics of Dehumanization
    (pp. 72-95)

    Alphonse Toussenel, a nineteenth-century author from Angers, left to posterity two books that were each extremely popular: on the one hand,The Jewish Kings of Our Era: A History of Financial Feudalismand on the other,The Spirit of Beasts,which includedPassional Ornithology: The Birds of France,andPassional Zoology: Mammals of Franceand appeared between 1853 and 1855.¹ It would seem that the xenophobic themes of the first work can be found in the second, in a certainly minor mode, but as if natural history invested them with a new legitimacy. Should one hastily leave this production to...

  8. 5 They Are Sleeping and We Are Watching over Them
    (pp. 96-110)

    For far too long, the animal question has been monopolized by the sole question of knowing whether or not animals benefit from those competencies related to the rational and reasonable norms men recognize as being within their capacity. At philosophical dramaturgy’s half-time, Descartes was the decisive agent for the excommunication of nonhuman living beings. In fact, for the majority of Greek and Latin authors, and then for Christians, the problematic of thelogoswas intimately tied to the problematic of justice. Animals,aloga,those who were not attributed withlogos,incapable of entering into a contract since they were lacking...

  9. 6 The Pathetic Pranks of Bio-Art
    (pp. 111-125)

    There are certain artists that mean to mark the end of the avantgarde by setting up their studios in laboratories and working with geneticists so as to act on the mechanisms of life. Artistically modified organisms, writes Eduardo Kac, one of these artists to whose work I will be paying particular attention, “are going to become our familiar companions.”¹ He adds that “artists could usefully increase the planet’s biodiversity by inventing new forms of life.” For these artists, it is a question of replacing the representation of life with its modification and of exhibiting the results of thesedétournementsin...

  10. 7 The Ordinariness of Barbarity
    (pp. 126-132)

    In Latin,crudelitasdesignated cruelty only when it coincided withcruor,spilled blood, whether coagulated or in a puddle, wounded flesh. As for noble blood, it was calledsanguis.This is why the consecrated phrase is “Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei.” This observation is less incongruous than it might at first appear, since this divine blood was in no way shed for any kind of redemption of the animals, and since this is precisely thecrucialcharacteristic of our Western Christian culture. This semantic remark must nonetheless not allow us to ignore the fact that one can act with...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 133-148)
  12. Index
    (pp. 149-156)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 157-158)